SIR: As gateways to knowledge and culture, libraries play a fundamental role in society. The resources and services they offer create opportunities for learning, they support literacy and education, and they help shape the new ideas and perspectives that are central to a creative and innovative society. They also help ensure an authentic record of knowledge created and accumulated by past generations.
Without libraries, it would be difficult to advance research and human knowledge, or preserve knowledge and heritage for future generations.
What are some of the challenges facing public libraries in Nigeria today? One problem faced by public libraries in Nigeria today is their scarcity. For example, someone who lives somewhere in FESTAC Town, Lagos would have to travel a long distance to somewhere around Mile 2/Amuwo Odofin, in order to access the services of a public library. This library (The Borno House Library), under the Lagos State Library Board) seems to be the only functioning library in the entire FESTAC/Amuwo Odofin area. So, it will be appreciated if more public libraries are established across various communities/neighbourhoods.
These public libraries are often unattractive and poorly maintained, while in most cases, the facilities are inadequate. This could be because the library buildings and the systems that sustain them are underfunded, and probably overrun.
This problem can be tackled by improving funding for the public library system. More public support – such as through the contributions of philanthropists – can be of much benefit in this regard.
Also, the books in stock at the libraries are usually outdated. It is rare to find new and current books or journals. Also, reference materials, where they exist, are old and dusty. Audio-visual materials are also hard to come by. The quality of manpower is also frequently not up to expectations. These and many other problems are currently plaguing the public library system in Nigeria.
A functional library is expected to stock all kinds of items that add to knowledge – from books to audio and visual materials, internet access, artefacts that advance the cultural and recreational needs of the society, etc. Libraries are essential not only for community vitality but also for buffering all variety of personal problems – including isolation and loneliness. This is especially so, as the rate of unemployment and poverty in the country continues to rise, leading to idleness, among other ills.
Therefore, the relevant authorities will do well to establish more public libraries, maintain existing ones, and make our public libraries attractive to meet the informational, educational, and recreational needs of the people.
- Daniel Ighakpe, FESTAC Town, Lagos.